The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center provides hands-on, kid-friendly fun on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.” Located in Townsend, TN, the center displays the area’s rich history using a variety of interactive artifacts that kids are allowed to touch and feel. This kid-friendly museum will make an excellent addition to your next Smoky Mountain vacation!
Your tour will begin in the gift shop where you will purchase your tickets. Maps are available to show you how to navigate the museum. It is a good idea to get the map, because some exhibits are inside while others are located outside, behind the main building.
The first section of the park we visited was the National Parks galley. Here you will find fun facts and about all 5 of Tennessee’s National Parks. Our favorite thing in this room was the preserved bodies of local creepy crawlies. They were completely disgusting. So naturally, we couldn’t look away.
Half of the main exhibit hall is filled with Native American artifacts from varying time periods. These mountain natives thrived until the arrival of early European settlers. The lives of these European newcomers are detailed in the second half of the main exhibit hall. Here, you will learn about the harsh realities of mountain survival in the early 1700s and beyond.
Throughout the main hall, you will find hands-on exhibits and interactive computer games. There is also a 20-minute video that depicts early life in the Smoky Mountains, beginning with Native American history. Although very informative, the video is a little dry and is probably best for 5th grade and up.
After exiting the main hall, we ventured outside to the historical village. This village contains 13 historical buildings from various time periods. The buildings are filled with tons and tons of items for your kids to touch and feel.
When we bought our tickets, the woman at the front desk even told us, “Make sure you lay on the beds to get a feel for what life was like back then.” The most interesting bed was a rope bed. Can you imagine sleeping on taught ropes every single night?! Thank God for modern technology.
This outdoor village, although graveled, is stroller accessible. We were actually pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to maneuver the stroller. Although he clearly didn’t have a clue what was going on, Baby A did have a great time interacting with the various items. They are all non-breakable, so you don’t have to worry too much about the destructiveness of little hands.
We were all really excites about visiting the historical transportation exhibit hall, but unfortunately, it was in the middle of being relocated during our visit. This meant the exhibits were closed. But, we did get to see some cool tractors in the village.
If you are local, or a frequent Smokies visitor, the center does offer yearly passes. Not only do these passes grant your entire family free entry to the museum, but it allows you to attend all of their special events and concerts for free!